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Adios, “New Europe”

The good will of "New Europe" is no more, thanks to the bumbling of President Bush, says Anne Applebaum: Putin's Cold War rhetoric is beginning to worry people all across the continent; he must be counting it a huge success. … Read More

By / June 5, 2007

The good will of "New Europe" is no more, thanks to the bumbling of President Bush, says Anne Applebaum:

Putin's Cold War rhetoric is beginning to worry people all across the continent; he must be counting it a huge success. Yet it seems no one in the Pentagon ever imagined that anyone might object to the project, or that the locals might want some extra reassurance, or that a bit of judicious diplomacy might have smoothed the way in advance. According to some, the State Department didn't even know the missile shield was going ahead until the Pentagon had already made the decision. Sound familiar?

The only quibble I have with Applebaum's argument is that it doesn't take into account how amenable Old Europe has once more become to American interests. France and Germany now have heads of state with a professed tendency toward Washington, made ever starker by the possible vacancy in the role of world partner that will attend the resignation of Tony Blair in Britain.

Though there's every reason to suspect that David Cameron or Gordon Brown would be more reliable Atlanticists than they let on to their constituencies: Sarkozy and Merkel get away with snuggling up to Washington because their countries both opposed the one U.S. foreign policy decision credited with blackening our reputation: the war in Iraq.

Of course, that the administration has chosen now to press for the installation of the missile shield is telling in another way. It suggests that Bush has learned little since 2000, when an anti-nuclear defense system was a point in his virgin presidential campaign. (Instead of a "freedom doctrine" or nation-building, zapping rockets from outer space was on chief security concern of the GOP candidate.)

So the rationale that such a shield is designed to protect the United States from Iran and North Korea–regimes which have not yet got missiles that can reach the United States and certainly didn't have them in 2000–is transparently false. However, Applebaum is quite right to stress that Kremlin knows that the shield is not designed to antagonize Russia, which still ranks at the largest owner of nuclear warheads on the planet.  Recall that the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld had signaled China as the most exigent  military threat to the U.S. in the 21st century. China is the likelier target for such a hapless deterrent. 

Of course, it scarcely helps that Moscow and Beijing are bosom buddies on everything from human rights abuses to kleptocratic third world oil deals to squashing any attempt to bring justice to the criminal state murders of democratic reformists like Rafiq Hariri.

Welcome to the New World Order. Same as the old, really. 

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